Travel in Ireland: Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher

Last week I made the journey to Dublin from Barcelona.

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beautiful rainbow that crossed our path as we landed in Dublin 🌈

Now since I only had one afternoon in Dublin, I started sightseeing straight away, with a self-guided walking tour of Dublin. 😀

Sightseeing in Dublin

Dublin was founded by Vikings, and is now the capital of the Republic of Ireland. It has the youngest population in Europe as well, with over half the citizens being under 25! Not sure if it’s by coincidence then that the city has almost 700 pubs, and the legal drinking age is 18! Hah! 😜

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countless bars line the streets in Dublin

Many of these nightlife hot spots can be found in the Temple Bar district, a colorful bohemian quarter, which also retains its old-world charm. DSC_6239

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the Temple Bar district is known for its many restaurants, bars, and live Irish music
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statue of Molly Malone near the Temple District, for whom a famous Irish song is named after 🎵

Don’t get the wrong impression though. Although the city has a popular pub scene, it’s equally recognized for its world renowned university, Trinity College. 

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famous alumni of Trinity College include Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker

The college is the first established and the most prestigious university in the country. Its library also contains one of the finest manuscripts of the New Testament, the Book of Kells.

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on the right is the library, which contains the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript with four gospels of the New Testament

Another famous landmark in Dublin is the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, named after the patron saint, Patrick, who was credited with converting Ireland to Christianity in the 400s AD.

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trees on the cathedral grounds showcasing their gorgeous fall foliage
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Now there are many unique facts and legends behind St. Patrick, including the fact that he’s not actually Irish, but was brought here as a slave, and apparently drove all the snakes out of Ireland. 🐍 Even more bizarre, now-a-days we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by getting blitzed on the anniversary of his death, March 17th, but up until 1970s, it was a dry holiday! 😮❌🍺

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humorous meme comparing St. Patrick’s actions to those of Samuel L Jackson in the movie, Snakes on a Plane. 😛

Side note: attractions like St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College library charge around 8-11 USD to enter, but are free and just as pretty to view from the outside. 🙂

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vibrant blue cathedral door
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cathedral crest

Now one of the most interesting things I found while wandering was a statue of a homeless Jesus outside the Christ Church. It is difficult to discern the character until you see the holes in the feet. The statue is intended to make passerbys reflect on the indignity of being oppressed.
DSC_6275Now, another must-see historical attraction in the city is Dublin Castle, since it represents the fact that, up until 1921, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.

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Dublin Castle was the seat of the UK’s government administration until 1921, when the Republic of Ireland became a free state
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gorgeous green gardens of the castle
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although I arrived too late, tours of the castle interior are available

Now aside from those historical sites, I loved just admiring the old brick buildings with bright red and blue doors that popped in this hazy, rainy weather.DSC_6213DSC_6248 DSC_6269DSC_6253

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funky 3D art piece in downtown Dublin

During my visit, the weather in Dublin was wet and windy, and as I marched along the sidewalks with my umbrella, attempting not to get my bag wet, it seemed that nobody else cared about the drops of rain pelting them in the face! Hah!😜I guess, on the bright side, it makes everything here so beautiful and green!

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staying positive with my rainbow brolly 😉

Anyway, after gallivanting around the city for a few hours, I made my way to the Guinness Storehouse.

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feeling hoppy at the brewhouse 😜 Get it? (beer is made with hops)

Guinness Storehouse Tour

The Guinness Storehouse is located at the St. James Gate Brewery, where over 3 million pints of Guinness are brewed each day!
DSC_6278The mastermind behind this magic brew is Arthur Guinness. Back in mid 18th century, having such confidence in his brews, Arthur signed a 9,000 year lease of the brewery! 😮

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the original lease is still honored, at an incredibly low 45 Euro per month! 😮

Now the Guinness Storehouse is definitely not pint-sized! 😜 It actually consists of seven different levels and I easily spent over two hours here!

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the Guinness Storehouse is larger than most malls

In the first few floors, I took a tour to learn about the process of brewing Guinness.DSC_6303Like most beers, Guinness has four essential ingredients: hops, barley, yeast and water.

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beer is about 90-95% water

At St. James Gate Brewery in particular, they use a whopping 100,000 tons of barley per year.

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vintage farm tools for harvesting barley

Additionally though, Guinness is infused with nitrogen, which balances out the flavors and gives it such a smooth taste. Untitled collageThey also roast their barley, which gives it a unique caramalized taste. DSC_6301

From there I learned how to properly pour and drink Guinness.

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Pouring Guinness properly is dependent on the angle and speed at which the brew enters the glass. A proper pint should take roughly 2 minutes to pour.

Now to properly taste the brew, it’s best to inhale, take in some of the beer, let it sit on your palate for a few seconds, and exhale as you swallow. This helps you appreciate all of the caramel notes. Yum! 😀UntitledInterestingly enough, the stout doesn’t travel well and is best enjoyed in Ireland. That being said, it hasn’t stopped them from exporting to over 150 countries around the globe! 😮🍺✈️🌎

DSC_6308Aside from the educational aspect of the tour, I really enjoyed viewing the vintage advertisements found around the storehouse. ❤DSC_6319

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“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. ” 😛

Anyway, with the tour ticket, you’re also able to enjoy a complimentary pint of Guinness at one of their three on-site bars.UntitledI chose to enjoy mine at the rooftop Gravity Bar, which offers views over the entire city of Dublin. UntitledThey even had some Irish flag colored lights set out to illuminate the room.

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Gravity Bar illuminated with festive lights 🇮🇪

While enjoying my pint, I chatted with a family from New York who was visiting their son during his study abroad semester in Ireland.

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enjoying Guinness with grand views of Dublin

Cost: Tickets are reserved in advance on their website. Cost ranges between 17-25 Euro depending on your age and the time of day. DSC_6283

The next day I took a full-day tour to the Cliffs of Moher with Paddywagon Tours.

Day Tour: Cliffs of Moher and Western Ireland

During the tour I sat with a girl originally from Macedonia. She was visiting with her family after finishing law school in Australia.UntitledOur guide for the day was Valentine, who was a hoot and a handful, all wrapped in one. As we left Dublin, we drove past the River Liffey, and he joked that it was got its color from all the Irish men peeing in it after a night of drinking Guinness at the pub. Hah! 😜DSC_6203Anyway, our first stop of the day was to Kinvarra, a sea port village near Galway in Western Ireland.DSC_6365DSC_6363This area is home to a few thatched roof houses, which are iconic of Ireland, but a rarity in these days. DSC_6340

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the thatched roof is gorgeous, but needs to be replaced at least every 10 years, which can get quite costly

Here is where we also learned about the Irish slang word, craic. Craic is the term for fun here, and our guide considers himself somewhat of a craic dealer. 😜

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Not what you’re thinking! It’s someone who jokes and likes to have fun.

The Irish love to joke around, and to teach us firsthand about this craic, our tour guide played a joke on an unsuspecting couple. To do so, we slowly rode our gigantic 60-seat tour bus in front of a castle we were to visit and nonchalantly asked the couple, “Excuse me! Could you tell me where to find Dunguaire Castle?” 😜

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asking for directions to the castle, while we’re parked right next to the sign 😜

The couple looked confused, glanced at the sign and the giant castle beside us, and said, “Ummm, it’s right there, lad.” The tour guide, trying to contain his laughter, replied, “Ah! Thank you! We’ve been driving around in circles for hours trying to find it!” Hah! 😜 Now that was good Craic. 😉

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the medieval Dunguaire Castle, which is now newly restored and hosts Medieval Times-style dinner theatre from May to October

From there we drove through the Burren of Western Ireland. This area is covered in farmland, with sheep and cattle lazily grazing in the fields. The plot lines here are marked with stones, since the area is made of mostly limestone sediment.

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Burren actually comes from an Irish word meaning, “the rocky place”

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sheep in the Burren

I also noticed this sign on our drive, which is a variant of yield. Interesting! 🤔UntitledNow, to get a better look at the karst limestone landscape of the area, our guide stopped at these mini cliffs, which are about 100 ft high, and offer an impressive view over Galway BayDSC_6396DSC_6401I used the word mini, since our next stop was the gigantic Cliffs of MoherDSC_6414Compared to the mini cliffs, these rise about 650 feet tall, with a sheer drop off into the Atlantic Ocean.DSC_6417They were formed over 300 million years ago, and have been recognized by UNESCO as a world-renowned geopark and a protected area for sea birds that nest along these rocks. DSC_6416Now the weather conditions upon entering the site were quite windy and wet. Our guide mentioned though, that the worst kind of weather is fog, and we were lucky enough to actually see the cliffs.

22550383_10107452807745417_2011827062964541132_oThe cliffs were undoubtedly magnificent, but to view them, I had make several mini trips. I would try to run out there, battle the elements, take a few pictures, and then head back to the visitor center to warm up.

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informative visitor centre at the Cliffs of Moher (a.k.a my refuge) 😜

Fortunately, I survived the visit, but my umbrella was not so lucky. She flipped inside out with a big gust, and the springs scattered across the pavement. R.I.P. my poor brolly 😥Untitled

Anyway, the last stop of the day was Bunratty Castle. It was located near a restaurant and shopping center, which gave us a chance to warm up and do some souvenir shopping.

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Bunratty Castle, the most complete and authentic 15th century medieval fortress in Ireland

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Blarney Wollen Mills shopping center
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Irish doll souvenirs
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Guinness mug souvenirs
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coffee shop at Blarney Wollen Mills

Cost: The full-day tour from Dublin cost 40 Euro, which included transportation, guide, and all entrance fees

Later that evening, upon returning to Dublin, I went to The Celt Pub with my old Russian friend, whom I met last summer while climbing a volcano in Guatemala. He now lives and works in Dublin.

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trying a pint of O’Hara’s Irish Pale Ale

It was great to catch up with him and listen to some traditional Irish music to boot. The bar atmosphere was quaint and cozy, which is everything that I had hoped to find at a pub in Ireland. The walls were lined with dark wooden bookshelves, brimming with classic novels. They had Jameson bottles as candle holders, where the wax slowly melted down the bottle to give off some dim mood lighting. And as for the live band, they had a guitarist, drummer and a flutist. I even found this comical ad on their wall about flutes.

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because they have a flutist there, the sign read ‘beware: flute in mouth disease’, which sounds like foot and mouth disease 😜

Anyway, the band played classics Irish songs, like The Wild Rover and Whiskey in the Jar.  I took a few video clips for you all to enjoy. 🙂

Overall, it was the perfect way to end my night in Dublin. 🍺🎵

Getting There:

To get to Dublin from the airport and vice versa, I took bus #16 (bus #41 works too). They both have drop-off points in the city center, and are the most cost-effective option at 3 Euros and 30 cents per ride.

Where to Stay: 
While in Dublin, I stayed at the International Irish Youth Hostel.
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hostel common area

I found the facilities clean, orderly, and then even had a complimentary breakfast in their on-site renovated church restaurant.

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complimentary coffee, tea, toast and cereal
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renovated church restaurant

Cost: 18 Euro per night, which includes linens and free breakfast (I also had to purchase a different plug for 4 Euro, since Ireland uses a different socket than the rest of Europe)

Anyway, stay tuned to hear all about my last day in Ireland. Until then! 😀

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